Well, it happened. It finally snowed. Last week, we pled: "Dear Winter, Please Show Up." We snow-loving mountain dwellers had simply had our fill of gloriously sunny and unseasonably warm days. We couldn’t take it any longer. Cries issued forth. Widespread wailing was heard. Bargains were struck with deities. And of course, the gnashing of teeth; always the gnashing of teeth. Hindsight is 20/20, and reveals the snow gods to be fans of folk, blues, and outlaw country. Like Pan’s flute, the dulcet tones of the Risky Biscuit Hayseed Hoot‚ Winter Welcome Show‚ saved us.
The light breeze felt atop local mountain ridges Tuesday morning was no doubt the local ski resorts breathing a collective sigh of relief. As the season’s first real snow storm took leave of the region it left behind a generous helping of deep, dry snow and frigid temps. Instant winter. The snow gods gaveth. Praise be the snow gods.
The first big snow brings the first tour of the season; the first tour that doesn’t involve unpleasantries such as hiking uphill through mud or skiing into buried stumps and rocks. It’s the first ‘real’ tour, the first chance to strap on backcountry skis, skin up to the top of a favorite backcountry stash, and ski alllllllll…. the way back to the car.
For me, it’s this tour that creates an opportunity unlike any otherfor the rest of the ski season. It’s the one best time to find outwhich crucial piece of gear will be left behind.
This is my chance to setthe seasonal tone with a careful sabotage; one that won’t completelyruin the tour, but make it a marginally sufferable dog-and-ponyshow. I’ve come to rely on this first tour and the inevitablescrew-up that will make it memorable. As a matter of fact, I don’t evenrefer to it as the "first tour" anymore. With my tendency to turnthis annual outing into a rolling carnival, it was time to staringcalling it what it was, the Circus Tour. *queue Big Top music*
One year, the forgotten item was water. No biggie. Drinking’s niceduring exercise, but overrated. Some ayurvedic traditions highlyrecommend ritual dehydration. "It’ll be good for chakras orsomething" I thought. That ski tour lasted all day. Since then, Ialways remember the water.
Then it was ski poles. Ski poles are more important than one mightthink. Sure, they’re handy for going downhill, but an improvised lurkwill do. It’s during the UPhill part that the poles fulfill theirmost noble service. I was not aware of this before that tour.
Another season, one of the BMOCs was visiting from HQ and brought withhim an instant ski season–the mountains picked up 4 feet of snow thenight he arrived. He wanted to go skiing. The storm had cleared and thecrystalline sky was filled with a full moon. I drove. We arrived. Heput on his gear. I put on mine. Except for my boots. They were still inmy apartment. Nice and warm. I learned that sometimes sheer will is notenough; one cannot improvise boots.
I have yet to forget my skis; perhaps in the fullness of time. But thisyear’s subconscious selection was interesting–my climbing skins. Liketrying to drive up an icy street in a car with bald tires, you justcan’t ski up a decent hill without your skins. And since the snow inthe Sierra Nevada is often too deep to walk through, they are prettycritical for getting into the backcountry. That extra float provided bya ski under foot makes all the difference.
So, leaving the skins at home is bad. But driving to the top of amountain just so you can exit the car, smack yourself on the forehead,shout terrible things, and promptly leave isn’t always a great time.The snow is "often" too deep to walk through. Driving to the top of amountain for no other reason than to realize one is a forgetfulimbecile is often an unpleasant waste of time. What could I do? Theonly thing more foolish than accepting my advancing senility would beattempting to salvage my pride. Of course I chose that. Two ormore feet of snow is often too deep to walk through. But not today. Notthis time.
The turns were among the best I’ve earned.
Oddly enough, the BMOC from HQ arrived on a plane last night. He wants to go skiing tomorrow. My skins are already in the car.